A growing number of fleets are choosing propane
It might seem that multi-billion dollar companies and local school districts share few business interests, but organizations large and small are faced with the challenges of stretching budgets and making their fleets “greener.” Now, more and more are finding that propane helps them accomplish both goals.
Also known as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), propane as a transportation fuel has roots that go back nearly a century. In recent years, however, its reputation as a top fuel pick for fleets has gained traction. This is largely because of fuel injection system advancements and more vehicle options available in the marketplace.
Adams 12 School District in Thornton, Colorado, is just one of hundreds of school districts taking advantage of propane-powered buses. After arriving in 2005, Transportation Director David Anderson began developing the district’s alternative fuels program, which would include a pilot project with 12 Blue Bird Vision propane buses equipped with Ford 6.8L V10 engines and Roush CleanTech fuel systems.
“In my previous position as the fleet manager for Cherry Creek Schools, also in Colorado, we developed an alternative fuels program for our buses as a way to save money and clean up the air and environment for our students. When I arrived at Adams 12, we wanted to start a similar project,” Anderson said. “Our first purchase was a diesel hybrid bus, and it was very successful. So, when Blue Bird came out with a propane-powered bus, everyone agreed that it was something we should try.”
Anderson said the final decision for choosing propane came down to the infrastructure costs.
“We evaluated costs and found that we could install our entire propane station infrastructure, including a card reader system, for less than $50,000.”
In 2011, Anderson secured three buses and in 2012, nine more. As of August 2014, the buses have traveled 191,000 miles, averaging about five miles per gallon. Although propane buses typically experience about a 10% decrease in fuel economy compared to conventional buses, Anderson found that propane’s lower fuel cost easily offset the fuel economy loss. In addition to these savings, Anderson notes that the buses have had lower maintenance costs and have become a favorite among bus drivers and the district alike. Spurred by the success of the pilot project, Anderson wants to secure funding for an additional 10 propane buses this year.
The fact that hundreds of school bus fleets have chosen propane is a testament to how successful it’s been in this particular niche. A case study recently released by Argonne National Laboratory examined five fleets (a total of 110 buses) and found that some of the school districts saved nearly 50% on fuel and maintenance and recouped the incremental costs of the vehicles and infrastructure within three to eight years (afdc.energy.gov/uploads/publication/case-study-propane-school-bus-fleets.pdf).
One added benefit that all fleet managers and drivers can appreciate is propane’s cold-weather performance. Because the fuel is more easily vaporized at low temperatures, propane-fueled vehicles are able to avoid the cold-start problems inherent with traditional liquid fuels.
Adams 12 School District in Thornton, Colorado, has successfully added 12 Blue Bird Vision propane buses to their fleet.
Photo by Dennis Schroeder, NREL 31349
The “Red Jammer” buses at Glacier National Park have been running on propane for more than a decade. Photo from Glacier National Park, NREL 27574Clean Cities Now • Vol. 18, No. 2 • Page 6
source : the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy